A woman returns to her childhood home on Martha’s Vineyard and soon finds herself embroiled in local drama.
Joanna Howes grew up on Martha’s Vineyard but left to become a journalist in New York City. When her uncle, Hank, injures himself, she returns to the Vineyard to care for him. She plans on only staying in town for a short while before returning to her big-city life, job, and boyfriend, but it turns out Hank’s recovery time is longer than she predicted. He isn’t supposed to put weight on his broken leg, so he needs someone to do pretty much everything around his house—and that someone is Joanna. Joanna takes a freelance job at a local newspaper, but the pay isn’t quite enough to cover her expenses, so she starts writing for a competing paper under another name. The problem? The papers are locked in a bitter rivalry, meaning she has to keep each job a secret from the other. This is hard to do on an island where she grew up and knows just about everyone. When wealthy seasonal resident Orion Smith sues the zoning board for the right to land a helicopter on his property, it’s big news that Joanna must cover for both papers. But, of course, yet another problem presents itself: Joanna falls for the wealthy helicopter owner. He doesn’t know about her secret writing identity, and he also doesn’t know that Joanna’s Uncle Hank is on the zoning board. Galland (Stepdog, 2015, etc.) writes lush and convincing descriptions of life on Martha’s Vineyard in the off-season, and her writing brings to life the struggle between the year-rounders and the summer people. However, the drama of Joanna’s duplicity is never as intense as Joanna acts like it is—very few people who discover her secret even care that she has two jobs. Much more conflict is present in Joanna’s relationship with Orion, who’s presented as a charmer. However, he often comes off as a bully, particularly when he discovers that Joanna’s uncle is on the board he’s suing. He threatens her livelihood, insults her with multiple expletives, and never fully apologizes; yet Joanna and, presumably, the reader are supposed to look past his behavior because he had a difficult upbringing.
An interesting look at town politics on Martha’s Vineyard, but the characters are hard to root for.